In fitting fashion, the Waukee girls basketball team took on their toughest task of the season as they battled it out in the Class 5A state title game with CIML foe Johnston Friday night.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, a late Johnston push ended up closing the window and forcing Waukee to suffer a heartbreaking defeat 69-65. It marked the fifth straight defeat to the hands of the Dragons although if any silver lining comes out of this battle, it’s that Waukee still holds an 11-6 advantage in the all-time series.
Despite the loss, the Warriors were engaged in a battle that represented what many envisioned a Class 5A title game to be. The game held eight lead changes and four even scores across a game that gave nothing but excitement to the fans. The start of the contest was both something Waukee had and hadn’t seen before. They’ve been down early in a contest such as the semifinal battle with Waterloo West where they suffered an early three-point deficit, only to take the game win by over 20 points. This time around, however, what was a four-point deficit within the first minute of action ballooned to a 12-point deficit with under three minutes left in the opening quarter.
A large part of that had to do with Johnston’s shooting ability to start the game. The Dragons ended up shooting 78.6 percent from the floor without touching up one single free-throw. That left the Warriors with a ten-point deficit heading into the second quarter, 24-14.
Waukee turned things around across the second quarter both offensively and defensively. On the defensive end, Waukee held Johnston to their lowest single-quarter scoring mark of the season in just six points. Meanwhile, offensively the Warriors went on a 12-6 run to shave the lead down to just four points 30-26.
The next two quarters were flip-flopped but to start the second half, the third quarter went to Waukee 22-17. That helped Waukee to strike their first lead of the game early in the quarter followed by their largest lead of the contest (three points) with just a minute gone by in the quarter. Unfortunately for Waukee, that 22-17 mark flipped in the fourth quarter which ultimately led to Waukee’s defeat, and their third loss of the 2019-20 campaign.
The offensive leader on the night for Waukee was none other than Katie Dinnebier. Following her 12 points at the half, the junior posted a 29-point performance for the contest when all was said and done. The game both began and ended in fitting fashion as Waukee’s best offensive threat began Waukee’s scoring night with the first two points, and ended it with their final two points. Coaches always look for their best players to step up in big moments and that’s exactly what Dinnebier has done during her state tournament run. Through five state games dating back to last season, Dinnebier hasn’t scored any less than 20 points in a single contest. She will now walk away from the 2019-20 season averaging nearly 22 points per state tournament game.
“Katie is such a hard worker and phenomenal athlete,” said head coach Chris Guess. “She’s hustling all the time and gives nothing short than 100 percent every time out. She has great talent and a great mind for the game of basketball.”
Dinnebier ended her night shooting 50 percent from the floor while also swiping two steals and notching three assists.
Following her big offensive night was Megan Earney who dropped 13 points on the night having missed just three shots all game long. She was followed by Reagan Bartholomew with nine points and Lindsey Kelderman with seven points.
While it wasn’t the ending the Warriors were hoping for, they still didn’t’ forget the gravity of the situation and how far they’ve come.
“It feels really good to just get to this point,” began Lindsey Kelderman. “A lot of people didn’t think our team would go this far this year because of what we lost from last year but we just kept working at it and got here just the same.”
The team pushed through nearly every obstacle in their way and embodied one of their main themes for the season which was put squarely on the back of their warm-up shirts.
“We talk about 95 percent with how you respond to things,” began coach Guess. “It’s not just about the five percent of the time where the ball is in your hands, but the 95 percent where you don’t have the ball where the game is controlled. I was proud of what our kids did away from the ball tonight but we just couldn’t quite get it done tonight.”
While the loss may sting, for now, there’s excitement brewing on the horizon. Not a single senior existed on the 2019-20 Waukee girls roster meaning everybody is back to battle it out once more for the 2020-21 campaign.
“It’s really exciting to know we can just get right back to it again with everybody next year,” said Dinnebier.
Dinnebier and Lindsey Kelderman were both named to the Class 5A all-tournament team. The Warriors officially wrap up their season with a 23-3 record.